REVIEW: Microsoft SkyDrive delivers reliable cloud data file storage closely integrated with Office 2013, despite some puzzling bugs that Microsoft should patch promptly.
I recently started using Microsoft’s new Office 2013 along with its SkyDrive integration. This has allowed me to put SkyDrive through the wringer and see if it works as well as Microsoft claims.
I wanted to learn if this cloud-based storage was fast, reliable and, most importantly, was it useful?
For starters, let’s talk about what it is. Simply put, SkyDrive is yet another cloud-based storage system. It’s integrated into Windows 8 and with Microsoft Office 2013. (Later this month I’m providing a full review of Office 2013, as these topics overlap a bit.)
At the time of this writing, Microsoft is giving you free 7GB in their cloud servers. More storage capacity is available for a fee. SkyDrive isn’t technically new; it has grown out of an older cloud-based storage called Windows Live Folders that dates back to 2007. But with the release of Windows 8, Microsoft has revamped SkyDrive, including the online user interface as well as providing the integration with Windows 8.
Starting Out With Sky Drive
Signing up with SkyDrive is easy, especially if you have Windows 8 and created your Windows 8 login attached to your Windows Live account. When SkyDrive is activated, you get a folder in your Users directory called SkyDrive, such as c:\users\jeff\SkyDrive. That folder maps to your cloud storage.
Files saved in this file are automatically stored in the cloud in a secure location. The SkyDrive system is aware of changes to this folder, and continually updates the files to the cloud. Similarly, if files are added to the cloud from another device sharing the same cloud drive, those files will get copied down to your local computer. In general, the files all stay synchronized.
You can access your SkyDrive right from the Windows desktop Explorer just like you can with any other folder. It looks the same as other folders, except the icons have a little green checkmark on them if they are synchronized. If for some reason SkyDrive can’t synchronize the folders (such as you’re offline), then you’ll see a little error icon.
There’s really not much more to it from the desktop end. There’s an icon in the system tray in the lower-right corner of the traditional desktop (as opposed to the new Windows 8 desktop). Right-clicking this icon gives you a popup menu that includes access to SkyDrive settings, as well as access to manage your storage.
The settings is a little window that opens on the desktop. It lets you check whether to start SkyDrive when Windows starts. With most software I don’t use that feature. But in this case I do since I’m making heavy use of SkyDrive. Another option lets you check whether to allow SkyDrive to access all the files on your PC.